Jan 7, 2018
ELIZABETH COOPER SMOKLER has spent 40 years working as a Hollywood makeup artist, primarily on TV sitcoms such as Roseanne, The Ellen Show, Reba, Blossom, The Larry Sanders Show and Who’s the Boss? It’s been a wonderful career – except, that is, for all the sexual harassment she’s had to deal with in the process. (50:53)
Not long before allegations surrounding Harvey Weinstein jump-started an ongoing dialogue on sexual harassment in Hollywood, I talked with veteran TV makeup artist ELIZABETH COOPER SMOKLER about her experience working with lecherous celebrities.
ELIZABETH: “These are people with a lot of power that nobody ever says ‘no’ to. Or, very rarely. And they’re wealthy and entitled, and you’re in their personal space. You’re touching their face, touching their neck and so it can be a challenge at times because people take that as an opportunity to cross boundaries. That was a huge problem in my life.”
Elizabeth has spent 40 years making actors up, primarily for sitcoms (e.g. Roseanne, The Ellen Show, Reba, The Larry Sanders Show, The Naked Truth, The Geena Davis Show, Three Sisters, Blossom, Nurses, Who’s the Boss?). And while she says most of the men who have sat in her makeup chair have been terrific, there are some men – and even a woman – she’ll never forget because they made things extremely uncomfortable and difficult for her.
ELIZABETH: “You know, it’s progressive. People begin to harass you in a progressive way. It starts out light and joking, and then it segues slowly but surely into more pressure. And then when you turn them down, they start to get angry.”
On one particular show, things got so bad that Elizabeth’s father came to a taping and sat in the makeup room while she made up the show’s star:
ELIZABETH: “I was so bothered by this one person that I told him about it. And he came in like he was coming to see the show. It was an audience show. But my father was thinking if he introduced himself to this actor, that the actor would recognize that this is the daughter of another man and that he should treat me with respect.”
Elizabeth and I also talk about the many positive aspects of her career, what she thinks the secret to her success is, as well as how her craft has changed over the years with the advent of high-definition television (HDTV).
And be sure to check out the Bonus Material I’ve posted – a first for PIERSON TO PERSON. I recorded Elizabeth making me up as if I were going to appear on television (to better understand her craft) and, I have to admit, having all of one’s facial imperfections pointed out and covered up is a little humbling. Not that Elizabeth wasn’t nice about it. Quite the contrary. After all, she’s a pro.
Many thanks to Lee Rosevere for the opening and closing music featured in this episode royalty free through Creative Commons licensing:
1. "Southside" by Lee Rosevere - leerosevere.bandcamp.com
2. "As I Was Saying" by Lee Rosevere - leerosevere.bandcamp.com